After its establsihment in 1992, research work focused on the drafting of reports on the human rights and political situation in partner countries of the Austrian development co-operation and in countries of origin of Austrian asylum seekers (main regions reported on: East and Central Africa, the Middle East, South and Southeast Asia, Central America).
The legal entity Ludwig Boltzmann Institut für Menschenrechte – Forschungsverein (BIM-FV) established in 1996 focuses on the implementation of practice-oriented human rights projects.
In June 1993 BIM coordinated the participationed activities of more than 1,500 non-governmental human rights organisations making political and human rights advances in all continents attending the UN World Conference on Human Rights including the organisation of an NGO Forum with more than 3.000 participants.
From 1994 to 1998 projects and studies in relation to the conflict in Bosnia-Herzegovina were conducted, including work on the fate of missing persons, "ethnic cleansing" questions of temporary asylum in Europe and the repatriation and reintegration of refugees. In 2002 the BIM also completed projects on human rights violations in Kosovo and on temporary protection in Europe.
The Service Centre for Human Rights Education was established in 1997, aiming to support school teachers interested in human rights issues. This was followed in November 2001 by another Service Centre for Civic Education.
Also since 1997, the Institute has been working in collaboration with the Development Co-operation Department and the Human Rights Department of the Austrian Ministry for Foreign Affairs on the elaboration and implementation of human rights-related projects in Bhutan, Uganda, Kenya and Ethiopia, these being priority countries of the Austrian development co-operation. BIM has also been providing consultancy support on human rights issues. Since 2002 research projects on human rights and democratisation and a major study on integrating human rights into Austrian development co-operation have successfully been completed. In addition, consultancies have been carried out for the co-operation office in Uganda and the Embassy in Kenya.
BIM has placed strong emphasis on research studies of the implementation of international human rights treaties in Austrian law (such as the ECHR, CCPR and CESCR, CEDAW, UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, UN Convention Against Torture and UN Convention on the Rights of the Child). For example, BIM proposed a comprehensive set of new constitutional provisions on basic rights of children and adolescents in Austria. Based on the drafts of two EU directives to combat discrimination, the BIM has prepared draft legislation for an Austrian Anti-Discrimination Law in co-operation with other NGOs. The project has successfully been completed by several publications. Together with two other institutes, the BIM serves as national RAXEN Focal Point, reporting to the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC) and also offers training to lawyers and prosecutors on anti-discrimination issues.
Research is regularly published on special issues of the European Convention on Human Rights. The OeNB funded project on social and economic rights of asylum-seekers in Austria was finalised by a well received publication. During the Austrian chairmanship of the OSCE in 2000, BIM conducted a comprehensive study on the “Human Dimension” of the OSCE on behalf of the ODIHR in Warsaw.
Since 1999 several legal research projects have been conducted on the analysis of national and international measures to fight human trafficking; for example, “The Reference Guide for Anti-Trafficking Legislative Review” drafted on behalf of the OSCE/ODIHR, which has further involved BIM in relevant EU projects to implement the recommendations.
In cooperation with the Austrian Committee of UNICEF, a “Handbook on the UN Convention of the Rights of Children” was prepared in 2001. During 2002/3 when Austrian chaired of the international Human Security Network, the BIM coordinated the activities on “children in armed conflicts”. Since 2003, the BIM is involved in the process of setting up an Austrian National Action Plan for Child Rights (www.kinderrechte.gv.at). Furthermore, the institute is lobbying for the establishments of children’s rights in the Austrian constitution.
In fall 2002, the institute was mandated by the European Commission to carry out “Twinning Projects” under the PHARE, TACIS, CARDS and MEDA programs. The projects support candidate and neighbouring counties in implementing the acquis communautaire in the area including democratisation, rule of law and human rights. The Institute has so far been commissioned as “leading institution” with ten projects on the implementation of the EU Anti-Discrimination Directives in Poland, Slovenia and Hungary, the improvement of statement-taking methods of the national police in Turkey, data protection in Latvia, Lithuania and the Czech Republic, the reform of asylum and migration law in Ukraine and the reform pre-trial proceedings in criminal matters and combatting trafficking in human beings in Croatia. As “junior partner” or “supporting institution”, the BIM has been involved in four additional projects in the area of equal treatment of women and men in Poland, the development of a modern administrative jurisdiction in Bulgaria, strengthening of institutions in the fight against trafficking in human beings in Turkey and the reform of the Administrative Court in Croatia.
In 2002, Manfred Nowak published an introduction to the international human rights system availabel in German and English. In order to document results of our research, BIM has published a Study Series, edited by Manfred Nowak and Hannes Tretter since 1999 (together with Fiona Steinert since 2008). A comprehensive Commentary on the UN Convention against Torture funded by the Austrian FWF was published in 2008. A commentary on the European Charter of Fundamental Rights is also being drafted.
Since the beginning of the 1998/99 academic year, the BIM has overseen the EU-sponsored Post-Graduate Programme "European Master's Degree in Human Rights and Democratization" for the University of Vienna, one of the fonding university of the EIUC, BIM is also involved in the human rights modules of post-graduate programmes on “European Studies” at Vienna University and “Master of European Studies” at Viadrina University Frankfurt/Oder.
In February 2008, the research platform Human Rights in the European Context was established at the University of Vienna. It assembles academics of 12 departments of the University of Vienna with the purpose of strengthening the inter-disciplinary research on the topic of Human Rights in Europe. The BIM serves as the platform's centre of communication and coordination. http://human-rights.univie.ac.at
In January 2010, the doctoral college Empowerment through Human Rights was established within the framework of the research platform. Twelve postgraduate students from the disciplines law, sociology, psychology, and development studies are doing interdisciplinary research on human rights topics.